Two new baptized children of God this weekend, Bodie Ryan Herman, yesterday afternoon, and at Trinity this morning, Max David Vern Kleinke, two young sons brought by their parents to the washing of Christ, born again by water and the Word, adopted by God the Father, given the gift of the Holy Spirit. So, while the congregations are welcome to listen in, the message this morning is really intended for Max and Bodie. The rest of you may take from it what you can.
Bodie, Max, God’s message to you this day is “Look to Jesus.” It’s as simple as that. Except, as your fellow baptized Christians here this morning will tell you, it’s never quite that simple. Look to Jesus is excellent advice, and if we could correctly understand it and do it with any consistency at all, we wouldn’t need to keep coming back here. But we don’t always get it, and all too rarely do it, so, Max, Bodie, you’ll need to keep coming back to hear this message again. Which is good, joyful really. Not joyful every time; there will be plenty of Sundays when you put up a fuss and drag your little feet, trying to get Mom and Dad to skip Church. But you, and they, need to keep hearing this message. And at the core, in the end, living actively in the Church of Christ, gathering regularly to hear Him and receive His gifts, this is the only way to live.
Max and Bodie, as we rejoice in your Baptisms this morning, we also have more good news, because God’s Word to you today is a really good place to start understanding the what and how of looking to Jesus. So let’s get you started.
Look to Jesus. Don’t try to look past Him. You’re in the big wide world now, and before long you are going to start asking some hard questions, about God, about life, about why things are how they are. It’s natural, and it’s o.k. Just remember, don’t try to look past Jesus for answers, because you can’t see God except in and through Jesus.
The hard truth is that in this fallen world, there are quite a few questions God has not chosen to completely answer for us, like why evil happens to Christians, or to anybody, for that matter. And why some sinners are saved by the Gospel, and other sinners reject it. These are the kind of questions Job asks in the book that bears his name, from which today we heard the Lord’s response to Job’s “why God” questions. Job demanded to know why he, a faithful believer in the Lord and His promises, was suffering so much. God’s answer? Where were you Job, when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. God points out that He is the Creator, and we are creatures, fallen, sin-damaged creatures at that. God doesn’t explain an answer to Job, because there is no way for us small, weak, sinful creatures to understand all that God the Creator and Savior is doing.
But don’t fuss boys, God does not leave Job, or you, in a lurch. The Lord does not simply say shut up, and walk away. No, the Lord lets Job know that some questions will not be answered in this life, and then the Lord delivers Job. The Lord rescues Job from his suffering, returning twofold all that he had lost, saving Job from evil, and from his own shallow understanding.
God kept His promise to care for Job, for the sake of the Savior that Job believed in, the Redeemer that Job knew lives, the Redeemer Job knew he would one day see face to face. That same Redeemer has saved you boys, through the washing of water and the Word, which binds you to His Cross, and His Resurrection. In Jesus God has given us all we need for salvation, He is our answer. When you have hard questions, don’t try to look past Jesus, look to Him. Take your questions to His Cross.
Max, Bodie, look to Jesus, habitually. We already touched on this, but it’s really important, so we will expand a bit. In our Gospel this morning we see Jesus, going up on the mountain alone to pray, to have communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Bodie, Max, consider this: If Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, needed to commune with God, how much more do we need to do the same? Make a habit of communing with God, because you need to, because you are still sinners. You need to, because you cannot maintain your own faith, for your faith can only feed on Jesus, the true bread from heaven. Come to Christ, habitually, so that when your fervor dims, your habits will keep you coming, so that the Holy Spirit can re-ignite your faith, by the life-giving power of forgiveness.
Look to Jesus, boys. But where? Where are you to go to find Jesus? Up on a mountain top? Out in the great wide world? Or perhaps deep inside your heart, or your mind? Should you go searching for miraculous healings and amazing events in order to find Jesus? No, from Paul learn to look to Jesus in the places He has promised to be found. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
Like a golfer keeping His head down, focused on the ball all the way through His swing, you need to focus on Jesus, all through your life, and the place you can find Jesus is in the proclamation of His Word. The Lord God, the ruler of heaven and earth, the source of all power and life, chooses to make Himself present to you in His lowly Word, and in the signs He has given. The first sign is Baptism, your new gift, which is also new every day, for all the baptized. Look also to Jesus in the Supper, under the bread and wine, for He has promised to be there, too, for you. God is hiding in plain sight, happy to send His Word wielding Spirit to create the faith which sees Him wherever His Word is proclaimed. Wherever sinners are washed and absolved and fed, there Jesus is present, with forgiveness, life and salvation.
Bodie, Max, when Jesus calls you to do something, look to Him, right at Him, not at the wind and waves. Boldly stepping out of the boat to answer Jesus’ call to walk on the water, Peter was doing o.k., staying up, on top of the water, right up until the moment he stopped looking to Jesus, and let his eyes wander to see the wind. Losing sight of His Lord, Peter’s faith wavered, and he began to sink into the deadly waves. When Jesus calls you, look to Him, focus on Him, not on the wind and waves.
And what you ask, will be your wind and waves? The temptations of the world, which will tell you that God is not real, which tell you to serve only yourself, trust only yourself. These temptations are lies which will lead you into the sinking death of selfishness, unbelief and hopelessness. These lies surround us, but Jesus is present for you. Life and purpose and love, for you, and for you to share, are found in Christ. Look to Jesus, not to the wind and waves.
But perhaps, youngest Christians, you are wondering what Jesus will call you to do. Well, for now, your calling is to be a son to your parents, and a brother. Pretty sweet gigs, but they will bring their own wind and waves. You will resist God’s call for you to obey your parents and love your brothers and sisters, the waves of sin will threaten you. And, as you go through your life, Christ will give you more callings, like neighbor, friend, student, worker, husband, father. The only way you or anyone else will begin to fulfill the things Christ calls us to do is if keep our eyes on Jesus.
Finally, young Christian men, always look to Jesus as your Savior. Too often preachers present Jesus as a life coach, clipboard and whistle in hand, encouraging you to step more lightly on the wave tops, come on, you can do it. Or Jesus is preached as your new judge, slightly nicer than the Father, but an angry judge none the less, if you do not hold up your end of the bargain and live as rightly as you can. Or, most ridiculous of all, Jesus is presented merely as your example to follow, as if you have the strength to live as He lived, to be as He is.
When Jesus is preached as life coach, or judge, or example, you may feel motivated for a while to try really hard. But you, like Peter, are going to look down. You, like all the rest of the baptized here this morning, will look away from Christ, leading you to fail in your callings to serve family and friends, to fail to commune with God as you should, to try to reason your way through the hardest questions of life. Bodie, Max, you will forget, in many ways, to look always to Jesus. Then, your eyes filled with the problems and temptations of this world, you will begin to sink. And if, sinking into the water, you see Jesus as only your coach, or your judge, or your example, well boys, then you will be sunk.
Remember sinking Peter, remember His cry: Lord, save me! That’s who Jesus is, first and always, the Lord who saves, God Himself come down to earth, made to be a man, in order to save sinners from all our sins, all our problems, all our guilt, and from death that haunts and pursues us. Look to Jesus as your crucified and resurrected Savior, for that is who He always is.
Look to Jesus, and see that He did not really come down from heaven to feed crowds, or heal sick people, although these were good and right things to do, good things, but secondary. His real purpose was to save, to bear your sins and bleed and die, so that in His bloody death you might find forgiveness, so that in His glorious resurrection on the third day, you might find new life. And you have, for He has given both of these to you, His forgiving death and His eternal life, given to you, in your Baptism.
Max, Bodie, look to the Cross. Look to your Baptism. Look to Jesus, call on His Name, and be saved, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.